The Anchoress

The Anchoress

A Novel

Book - 2015
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England, 1255 . What could drive a girl on the cusp of womanhood to lock herself away from the world forever?

Sarah is just seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a cell that measures only seven by nine paces, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth as well as pressure to marry the local lord's son, she decides to renounce the world--with all its dangers, desires, and temptations--and commit herself to a life of prayer.

But it soon becomes clear that the thick, unforgiving walls of Sarah's cell cannot protect her as well as she had thought. With the outside world clamoring to get in and the intensity of her isolation driving her toward drastic actions, even madness, her body and soul are still in grave danger. When she starts hearing the voice of the previous anchoress whispering to her from the walls, Sarah finds herself questioning what she thought she knew about the anchorhold, and about the village itself.

With the lyricism of Nicola Griffith's Hild and the vivid historical setting of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites , Robyn Cadwallader's powerful debut novel tells an absorbing story of faith, desire, shame, fear, and the very human need for connection and touch. Compelling, evocative, and haunting, The Anchoress is both quietly heartbreaking and thrillingly unpredictable.

Publisher: New York :, Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, ©2015.
ISBN: 9780374104252
Branch Call Number: FICTION CAD
Characteristics: 310 pages ; 22 cm


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Jun 23, 2018

I had never heard of an Anchoress before reading this book. Even though it was fiction I also found it educational. Enjoyed this book.

Cas22 Nov 20, 2015

This gentle but intriguing story takes us into the life of a medieval anchoress who seals herself off from the world, in a tiny room, and offers prayer and counselling to ensure the spiritual well-being of her community. In telling this story the author also gives us well-researched insights into the confronting beliefs and practices that were prevalent at that time concerning women, virginity, sin and redemption. She also maps, in poignant detail, the toll that such beliefs and practices had on those women. A worthwhile read.

Nov 03, 2015

I was interested in how the author would deal with the limited setting (an anchorhold) and interiority and medieval mindset of the main character, Sarah. I think she did a great job. It is a well-told, interesting story showing the characters' spiritual development. This would make a good book club read for a church group.

AliReads Oct 18, 2015

If you feel like the world is too noisy, if you want to shut yourself away for a while for some peace, to figure out how to live in the world, if you're hurting or grieving and nothing helps try reading this. A story about a young woman who chooses the enclosed life of an Anchoress, locked away in the room of a church for the rest of her life. It's also a wonderfully researched medieval setting and the author has written a thesis about virginity and female agency and saints that burst out of dragons!

jr3083 Sep 06, 2015

The author has set herself a difficult task, writing about a 17 year old girl who has deliberately secluded herself as an anchoress in a cell attached to a church! This is a restrained, deliberate book that maintained my attention right to the end.

Aug 26, 2015

Slow & sad & drab is my description of this book.

Jul 02, 2015

So depressing that I merely skimmed it, awaiting the end.

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